International Leprosy Association -
History of Leprosy

  • International Leprosy Association -
    History of Leprosy

    Hiroko Kato

    Japan, 1943- Profile
    Hiroko Kato developed leprosy at the age of about 5 or 6. She went through many experiences while not knowing she had leprosy. Ultimately, she was admitted to the Suruga Leprosarium.

    She was selected to participate in the outdoor sketching competition when she was a primary school student.

    As junior high school student her paintings were introduced twice in the wall newspaper “Social Education News” of the school at Suruga Leprosarium.

    The then director Mr Shigetaka Takashima promised to give her anything she asked for and received a box of 24 -color paints that she had always wanted.

    She enters Niirada High School at Nagashima Aisei-en, Okayama Prefecture. Her oil paintings were accepted at Okayama Prefectural Art Exhibition, in her junior and senior years.

    Prizes won in Painting
    1959~1960  Wins special recognition and awards at the Nagashima Art Exhibition

    About 1972~1973:
    Accepted three times to exhibit at the Hakujitsukai Exhibition
    Wins the Superintendent of Education Award at the Mikuriya Art Exhibition
    Receives multiple honorable mention award at the Gotenba City Art Exhibition

    1993: Starts planning for the [EventFureai & Souzouten] (Interaction and Creativity Event)

    1995: Wins the Award of Excellence at the Yomiuri Support for Persons With Disabilities Art Exhibition sponsored by Arinomama sha.
    (Touring Sendai City (Miyagi Prefecture), Yokohama City (Kanagawa Prefecture), and Osaka City (Osaka Prefecture))

    2000s: Illustrations were selected for use as logo for IDEA and used as its letter head.

    2004: Illustrations used for IDEA One Hour for Justice Campaign

    April 2009 Solo art exhibition at Asakusa (Tokyo)
    Attended by many people including Dr Shigeaki Hinohara, Honorary Director of St. Luke’s International Hospital and of Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation. Also reunited with many of her cousins who came to the exhibition.

    2008: Ten CG illustrations published in the “Illuminating Ourselves”, IDEA Center for the Voice of Humanity.

    2012: Designs the cover illustration for the Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation brochure.

    Prizes and Publications in Literary work
    Honorable Mention Award received multiple times at Gotenba Literary Art Festival

    2008: Publication of collection of essays, “Kaijin Danso” (Fragmented Thoughts of Kaijin)

    2014: Publication of collection of essays, “Kaijin Danso” (Fragmented Thoughts of Kaijin)
    (In this second collection of essays, she illustrate the sense of mission of Akashi Kaijin. She comments by saying that verses that suggest criticism of the absolute segregation policy are indeed verses that can only be written by people who have experienced being affected by leprosy.)

    Contributes her essay “Image ETC” on the theme of synchronicity to the Tama Zenshoen Residents’ publication [TAMA]. Also many contributions to other in-house publications under different topics.

    Knitting Work
    Hiroko Kato’s design and knitted works have often been introduced in knitting magazines.

    Her work has been highly recognized by Professor Roger Nicholson of the Royal College of Arts, Great Britain. She received a 1842 lithograph of Edo Period Japan for her excellent work.
    There is an episode to it:(words of Hiroko Kato)
    “I asked a junior high school student to write a letter on my behalf in English but the completed letter did not convey my thoughts correctly. So I said to myself, that even if one could not speak English nor write correctly in English one would be able to communicate ones’ s thoughts by talking directly with the person, whether face-to-face or through a letter. So I decided to write my first letter in English using a dictionary and not being bound by grammar.

    I received an answer from Professor Nicholson, written on an antique postcard enclosed in an envelope with the following message, “Your knitting work and your design are all very unique, but your letter is the best of your works that I have seen from you.”

    I thought for a whole day the difference between the things I was able to do and those that I am unable to do. I slept on it and when I awoke the next morning I had a good idea and I tried it out. I know that what I could not do was because of my handicap, I have always been helped to overcome them. But I came to realize that the reason why I could not speak English was because I had to worry about grammar. English is written horizontally therefore requires grammar. I came to realize that if I wrote vertically there would be no problem. I think I was able to foster the sense of originality and ingenuity because I made efforts to overcome the talent that I lacked.

    My Double-ended needle design and, proposal for improvements for parts have been accepted. I also received requests for writing for knitting related publications but considering the weight of the responsibility that I would have to bear when there was too much to do, I had to but resign. But I continued counseling for the creation of apparels. I also continued to enter my knitting works at exhibitions for my own future reference.”

    Awarded 1st, 3rd and other top prizes in Shizuoka Prefecture. The works have been evaluated to be like sculpture or printed work.

    Awarded double prize of Gold Medal and the Juries Award at the Knitting Festival.

    Awarded the Honorary Award in photography by judge Shunichi Ikeya at the Gotenba City Art Festival.
    Further reading Hiroko Kato wins the Award of Excellence at the Yomiuri Support for Persons With Disabilities Art Exhibition sponsored by Arinomama sha.
    Abstract Lotus Hiroko Kato
    Abstract Painting: Little Sad Hiroko Kato
    Bathing in a Moonlit Night Hiroko Kato
    Dance of the Cranes Hiroko Kato
    Glow of Green Hiroko Kato
    Hi! Everybody. Let’s live all together Hiroko Kato
    Modigliani Hiroko Kato
    Oriental Hiroko Kato
    Sadness Hiroko Kato